Note, the format of my Short and Sweet reviews differs in that they simply comprise the book blurb and a short response (hence, the short and sweet). 

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

An excellent review by Sam Still Reading convinced me to read this award-winning book, and Sam, if you read this, thank you. It was a great recommendation. Different! One thing Sam noted was not to put off by the fact that this book’s an award-winning one and she was right in saying it’s very readable and easy to follow. Here’s the blurb:

Rosemary’s young, just at college, and she’s decided not to tell anyone a thing about her family. So we’re not going to tell you too much either: you’ll have to find out for yourselves what it is that makes her unhappy family unlike any other. Rosemary is now an only child, but she used to have a sister the same age as her, and an older brother. Both are now gone – vanished from her life. There’s something unique about Rosemary’s sister, Fern. So now she’s telling her story; a looping narrative that begins towards the end, and then goes back to the beginning. Twice. It’s funny, clever, intimate, honest, analytical and swirling with ideas that will come back to bite you. We hope you enjoy it, and if, when you’re telling a friend about it, you do decide to spill the beans about Fern, don’t feel bad. It’s pretty hard to resist.

Here’s a snippet:

The mist lifts and suddenly there we are, my good parents and their good children, their grateful children who phone for no reason but to talk, say their goodnights with a kiss, and look forward to home on the holidays. I see how, in a family like mine, love doesn’t have to be earned and it can’t be lost. Just for a moment, I see us that way; I see us all. Restored and repaired. Reunited. Refulgent. (p28)

A story of sibling rivalry and family dynamics, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a quick and surprising read. Despite its size, it packs in a lot of thought-provoking material about how we behave and think, as well as touching on grief responses and memory blockages. What makes this book hard to review is that there’s a big reveal on page 77 that completely turns upside down all the reader’s previous perceptions. Of course, I’m not going to say what it is, but I will say that it was unexpected. Intelligent, unusual and memorable, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves had me scratching my head at times, but always had me wanting more. I’m going to read it again.

Available from good bookstores (RRP $27.99). My copy was courtesy of Allen & Unwin.

Bookish treat: I don’t know what happened to the fruit and nut chocolate that was in my drawer. It’s gone! Some monkey business must be going on.



Picture of Monique Mulligan

Monique Mulligan

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